BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. – Some of the residents of southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, who decided not to evacuate, were facing the pain of having to do so after Hurricane Ian destroyed or damaged their homes.
The sounds of helicopters flying over and police sirens were part of the new normal for residents of Bonita Springs, a city for those who love Gulf Coast beaches and parks.
Brigid Ogden, an area optometrist, said she decided to stay home and the experience before and after the powerful Category 4 hurricane’s storm surge has been traumatic.
“To look around and see this, and hear all the sirens and all of the helicopters it’s difficult,” Ogden said. “It feels like you are in a different part of the world.”
Ogden said during the storm she monitored both the front and back of her home. Like others in barrier islands, she faced flooding from the bay on one side and from the Gulf Coast on the other.
Standing near a damaged Rolls Royce that was trapped in between mangroves and debris, Jack Malloy said he made a decision that he regretted when he didn’t evacuate his home.
Malloy said the storm surge filled up his first floor and the water was up to his chest. He said the aftermath of the life-threatening experience was heartbreaking.
“Boats in the roads, people crying, losing their life savings,” Malloy said.
Many shared their experiences on social media. The infrastructure failures, the public service disruptions, and the slow response to rescue those who were having medical emergencies — while trapped in their homes — were nerve-wracking for many.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday afternoon that there had been 800 rescues and teams had gone door-to-door to check up on about 3,000 homes. Federal, state, and local officials teamed up to respond to the aftermath of the storm.
Police officers closed access to the coastal areas damaged by Ian’s storm surge. In Lee County’s village of Estero, firefighters had a large semi-truck apt to navigate flooding.
Some residents packed what they could in their luggage and evacuated. Others were trying to persuade police officers to allow them back into the area to secure what was left of their property.
Officials reported there have been at least 21 hurricane-related deaths in Florida and DeSantis warned there could be more since the 10 days after the storm are the most dangerous.
“Just because the storm has passed don’t think that there aren’t hazards there,” DeSantis said referring to threats such as live power lines and gas leaks.
Officials asked anyone in need of information about FEMA aid to visit the Disaster Assistance page. DeSantis asked anyone who was interested in helping victims to visit the Florida Disaster Fund page.
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Torres contributed to this report from Miami.